New Beetle mixes retro design, new technology

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New Beetle mixes retro design, new technology


With the Volkswagen New Beetle series, it’s all about design at first sight: draw a circle, add another on top, place those on four more circles and color in delectable candy colors. Everything inside and out is wonderfully cute and round ― from the headlights to side bars to the air vents. It’s no surprise such an ingenious adaptation of the classic Beetle design has won so many design awards.
A 2006 New Beetle Cabriolet in its brand-new “metallic gecko green” instantly made my day ― it was like being sucked up by a giant “Smile” face that made everyone contagiously happy. The buoyant mood prevailed when myself and four friends squeezed into the convertible.
The New Beetle is a two-door compact car, but its dome-like soft top allows space even for large-framed men. The car is so spacious inside that getting used to its actual size took a while, as the black canvas top covered most of the rear view, even though the side mirrors gave good visibility.

The Volkswagen designers have kept a retro feel intact in the vehicle while adding modern technology. The interior features a six-CD changer plus one more on the dashboard, but the digital audio system is adjusted by knobs like an old-style radio. A tiny vase behind the steering wheel and a horizontal handle in front of the passenger seat are reminders that the New Beetle hasn’t forgotten its heritage. The distance, angle and height of the front seats can be adjusted with the handle, which works like an air-pump. I never quite figured out how to work the two CD changers using the two knobs and other buttons, but everything else was easy to use.
Once on the road, the Cabriolet’s sound system turns its own volume down on all six speakers when slowing, as if the car wants to avoid the embarrassment of blasting music while stopped at a traffic light.
When I collected the car, there was one important thing to learn ― how to semi-manually open the soft top. One has to press a large button mounted above the rearview mirror, lower and twist a lever attached to the button, then pull out a tiny button placed near the brake. The top folds into Volkswagen’s original “VW”-like shape, another sign of the car’s design heritage. There is a collapsible wind deflector stored inside the rear trunk. Installing the L-shaped screen above the rear seats took a little figuring out as the cover of the ski-through hole had be removed entirely to fit the screen latch. Once mounted, however, the screen covered the entire space where rear seat passengers would have sat. Which means the real fun is reserved for the driver and one best friend only. The trunk also holds a water- and dust-proof cover for the soft top, made from canvas and mesh-like fabric. Since it’s entertaining to open and close the top frequently in the isolated rain of a Korean spring, the black pleather cover never got to see the sun during our test drive.

Once the dark soft top unveiled the blue sky in just 13 seconds, the world was an open road. Could the car leap as fast as my heart? In “D” or driving mode, propelled by a 1,984 cubic centimeter engine on 205/55R16 wheels, it quickly stabilized at a 60 to 80 kilometers (37-50 miles) per hour clip, making it ideal for urban driving. The real va-va-boom kicked in when the gear stick was clicked to the right for “S” or sports driving on the automatic 6-Tiptronic gear change, which generated not just wild vrooms at each rpm pump-up but also snappy speed ― whether cruising on a local road or zipping down an expressway.
For the ultimate speed test, I took the car to the highway that connects Bundang and Seocho near midnight. It appeared the New Beetle Cabriolet could easily go beyond the speed limit, with finesse, on a speedometer that registers up to 240. Slowing for occasional speed cameras was as swift and easy as speeding up, thanks to the well-functioning brake, which added a sense of safety on the road.
A New Beetle Cabriolet 2.0 costs 38,300,000 won ($38,000) in Korea.

by Ines Cho
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